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UK Internet users will have to prove they are 18 before being allowed to access adult websites from next year, following a new government ruling.
Websites will be legally required to install age verification controls come April 2018 as part of a move to make the Internet safer for children. Users may be asked to provide credit card details – which can only legally be obtained by someone aged 18 years or older – as gambling websites do.
Companies breaking the rules set out in the Digital Economy Act face being blocked by their internet provider. Under the plans, firms supplying payment and other services to the pornography websites could be notified about any breach. A regulatory body – possibly the BBFC -will be asked to oversee and enforce the new rules.
Digital minister Matt Hancock, in a written statement to the Commons, stated: “All this means that while we can enjoy the freedom of the web, the UK will have the most robust Internet child protection measures of any country in the world.”
Will Gardner from Internet safety charity Childnet added: “Steps like this to help restrict access, alongside the provision of free parental controls and education, are key.”
Open Rights Group Executive Director Jim Killock warned that age verification could lead to porn companies building databases of the UK’s porn habits, which could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style hacks. “The Government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age verification providers to protect the privacy of web users.”
“There is also nothing to ensure a free and fair market for age verification. We are concerned that the porn company MindGeek will become the Facebook of age verification, dominating the UK market. They would then decide what privacy risks or profiling take place for the vast majority of UK citizens.”
“Age verification risks failure as it attempts to fix a social problem with technology. In their recent manifestos, all three main political parties called for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools. Sex education would genuinely protect young people, as it would give them information and context.”